The 9th Circle of Grammar Hell: The Comma Splice

I have debated whether to run this type of post–grammar can be so boring!–but I keep seeing this phenomenon, and it’s on my mind this morning. 

Apparently the run-on sentence is making a comeback.

I thought we were done with those in elementary school, but apparently now that everyone is “grown up” enough to realize some writing and grammar rules can be broken without impunity, the collective opinion is that all of them can.

The construction I see all the time is in sentences like this: 

The description is not just for being pretty either, the living Japanese art isn’t just part of the visuals, it’s entwined throughout the game.

Or this two-for-one example that had two run-on sentences in a row:

Criticism is not there to kill us, even though it might hurt us, it is there to teach us. The comments made by the editors quoted by Angela were not designed to ridicule or destroy the authors, they were designed to help them improve their art.

This a blogging phenomenon.  Blogging is a medium wherein people use the conversational style to make their points and in so doing invoke the unholy COMMA SPLICE because they are either intimidated by semicolons or think they are “distracting” or genuinely do not realize they are writing run-on sentences.  (Even if it started in blogs, it has expanded…I’ve seen this kind of construction all over the place in novels recently, including at least one author who openly admits he uses the comma splice as part of his style–classy, right?). 

What I want to know is this:  what the hell is wrong with using semicolons WHERE THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE USED instead of everyone writing run-on sentences all over the place?  If part of the modern writing style is to employ this type of construction, then why are we not punctuating it correctly and familiarizing the plebs with the semicolon? Semicolons might be distracting to some readers, perhaps those who do not understand them, but run-on sentences are distracting to me. 

Maybe I am too comfortable with the semicolon (I’ve been told I overuse them; I disagree, but some people like Jane Austen and others like Hemingway when it comes to style, so we can all agree to disagree on that point). The relevant point is that I don’t see a semicolon in a sentence as this large block to reading, this full stop or anything like that. I see it as a point where you slow down just a little more than you do with a comma, but not as much as you do with a colon or a period. Perhaps I just write run-on sentences and use a semicolon and not a comma even though in my mind I read them the same way, and am just being a slave to the old rules when our culture has moved on because no one minds the comma splice anymore.

Except me.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The 9th Circle of Grammar Hell: The Comma Splice

  1. I may be guilty of this. Will have to go back and take a look, lol. I also like semicolons by the way.

  2. It pains me to admit it but spending some time brushing up my grammar has actually made life a lot easier. I had thought grammar would stifled my creativity but its actually fuelled it.

    • That doesn’t surprise me. I have always had a bit of a grammar fetish, but when I took an editing-intensive writing class in college, a lot of my classmates had that reaction. If the point of writing is to communicate, and the point of grammar is to clarify what is being communicated, then understanding the rules can only enhance the writer’s ability to be clear. And then break them when the writer knows enough to understand why breaking that particular rule will create the effect s/he is looking for with her words. I think Stephen King had it right to call grammar a “tool.” And it’s just a shame that the way it’s presented to students makes us all grow up to reject the very word.

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